Second Choctaw man sentenced for brutally killing fellow tribe member

Published 11:23 pm Saturday, March 23, 2019

Two members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians have each been sentenced to 45 years in prison for their part in the beating death of another tribal member.

Federal court records show Jerome Steve was sentenced Thursday and Keenan Martin was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III.

Martin and Steve pleaded guilty in July to second-degree murder in the November 2017 death of Demetrius Sam, whose burned body was found on the tribal reservation in central Mississippi’s Neshoba County.

Keyshawn Willis awaits sentencing on a guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter.

A fourth defendant in the case, Monte Isaac, died before he could be sentenced, according to a federal court news release Friday.

An April 18 sworn statement by FBI agent Charles Morrow Jr. said Martin, Steve and Willis confessed on video to beating Sam with their hands and feet, and then with a steel pipe, shovel and posthole digger. It said Sam was then doused with lighter fluid and set on fire.

Morrow said Isaac, in a wheelchair, encouraged the assault, shouting “Kill him, kill him!” Martin also said Isaac tried to find an ax to dismember the body and tried to remove a GPS ankle bracelet from Sam’s ankle. A tribal court services officer who responded to the anklet’s alarm found Sam’s body burning, according to court documents.

“When Martin was asked who killed Mr. Sam, he replied that all four of them had killed him,” Morrow stated.
The FBI agent didn’t outline any motive in the death.

Morrow said police found blood on the hands of Willis and Steve. He said forensic testing found Sam’s DNA on the skin or clothing of Martin, Steve and Willis and on Isaac’s wheelchair.